Turn of the Screw or watching an opera at home

For me, it has always been a pleasure to watch a production, may it be theater or opera, because it is such a thrill to see it happen right in front of you. Having done stage management and production management in 6 out of my 8 semesters in college, it is interesting not only to see the acting or listen to the beautiful music, but also to see how the stage is and how complicated scene changes are and whether the stage manager is dying in one scene or how the light designer did all that cool stuff. I like imagining back stage, the costume changes, the talks between assistant stage managers and the SM over the headsets… But also just to thrill of seeing it, right there on stage. To me it is very special.

Watching it on Mezzo or from a DVD, it feels… different. You have the close-ups that you can have on recorded versions, suddenly I can see the faces of the actors, suddenly, without my wish I can’t see half the stage. But there is also the luxury of being in your own environment, being relaxed, maybe having a tea and some snacks and just kind of letting yourself go to whoever has managed the cameras during recording and trusting them.

And then there is watching live streams of these things. Unfortunately, I have completely missed the live stream of Glyndebourne’s streaming of Turn of the Screw. Or rather, my twitter feed stuck Turn of the Screw in my face when I returned home that evening, with Nico Muhly, Alex Ross and Michel van der Aa all semi-live tweeting from the live stream, making me super-jealous. Lucky me, it is still available via the video service of Guardian.co.uk in two parts: Act I, Act II.

The Turn of the Screw is a chamber opera by Benjamin Britten, taken from the novella of Henry James. A short synopsis can be found here. The story as well as Britten’s variations of the theme, which precede every scene, are haunting and beautiful. I was especially blown away by the two young singers playing the orphans; Joanna Songi (playing Flora) and Thomas Parfitt (Miles). Young, and full of talent, it was a pleasure to watch them.

Even more fun was to go back to my twitter feed to re-read all the tweets about #TurnoftheScrew and enjoy the commentary provided by other composers/music gurus. Below are a few gems:

@nicomuhly So sexy to use alto flute and bass clarinet; it’s a weird mannered fauvism. “The Rite of Screw”

@nicomuhly Somebody buy this violist a drink; she sounds _awesome_

@alexrossmusic I love the eerie “wealthy country house” ambience. Oh wait, the opera hasn’t started yet.

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